Ragweed pollen and allergic symptoms in children: results from a three-year longitudinal study.
Common ragweed is a highly allergenic invasive species in Europe, expected to become widespread under climate change. Allergy to ragweed manifests as eye, nasal and lung symptoms, and children may retain these throughout life. The dose-response relationship between symptoms and pollen concentrations is unclear. We undertook a longitudinal study, assessing the association between ragweed pollen concentration and allergic eye, nasal and lung symptoms in children living under a range of ragweed pollen concentrations in Croatia. Over three years, 85 children completed daily diaries, detailing allergic symptoms alongside daily location, activities and medication, resulting in 10,130 individual daily entries. The daily ragweed pollen concentration for the children's locations was obtained, alongside daily weather and air pollution. Parents completed a home/lifestyle/medical questionnaire. Generalised Additive Mixed Models established the relationship between pollen concentrations and symptoms, alongside other covariates. Eye symptoms were associated with mean daily pollen concentration over four days (day of symptoms plus 3 previous days); 61 grains/m3/day (95%CI: 45, 100) was the threshold at which 50% of children reported symptoms. Nasal symptoms were associated with mean daily pollen concentration over 12 days (day of symptoms plus 11 previous days); the threshold for 50% of children reporting symptoms was 40 grains/m3/day (95%CI: 24, 87). Lung symptoms showed a relationship with mean daily pollen concentration over 19 days (day of symptoms plus 18 previous days), with a threshold of 71 grains/m3/day (95%CI: 59, 88). Taking medication on the day of symptoms showed higher odds, suggesting responsive behaviour. Taking medication on the day prior to symptoms showed lower odds of reporting, indicating preventative behaviour. Different symptoms in children demonstrate varying dose-response relationships with ragweed pollen concentrations. Each symptom type responded to pollen exposure over different time periods. Using medication prior to symptoms can reduce symptom presence. These findings can be used to better manage paediatric ragweed allergy symptoms.